Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the National Medical Commission Bill to replace the “corruption-plagued” MCI with a new body. The Bill, which seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act 1956, was passed by a voice vote amid a walkout by AIADMK. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on July 29.
“I can say with utmost confidence and utmost sincerity at my command that this Bill… is the biggest reform of recent times in the field of medical education,” Harsh Vardhan said. He said the Bill seeks to “put in place a new structure to tackle the challenges in medical education effectively”.
In 2016, the Bill was referred to a Standing Committee, the minister said, and out of its 56 recommendations “40 have been fully accepted, seven partially accepted and nine not been accepted”.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who was part of the Standing Committee in 2016, said, “Seven have been partially accepted, that is the problem.” By partially accepting them, he said, “the government has destroyed the spirit of the Standing Committee and is in danger of destroying the constitutional scheme of things by which health is a state subject and medical education is a concurrent subject”. He proposed that at least 14 members of the Commission be nominated by states instead of six, as the Bill stated.
Former Union minister Suresh Prabhu said the country’s medical education standards need to be uniform. “It might be state responsibility, but it is a national duty,” he said.
In his reply, Harsh Vardhan said that NEET is an institutionalised body conducting examinations in 13 languages. “Once NMC Bill is approved, exit examination will be implemented in three years,” he said, thanking senior Congress leader Ghulab Nabi Azad for his suggestions.
The Bill proposes bringing uniformity in national standards in medical education by proposing that the final-year MBBS exam be treated as an entrance test for postgraduation and a screening test for students who graduate in medicine from foreign countries. This exam, called National Exit Test (NEXT), would ensure that the proposed National Medical Commission (NMC) moves away from a system of repeated inspection of infrastructure and focuses on outcome rather than processes, Vardhan said.
Overhaul on cards as docs protest
For the first time since establishment of Medical Council of India in 1956, the structure of medical education regulation in India is set for an overhaul with National Medical Commission. Doctors, however, have been protesting against a clause about a limited practice licence, which they say would encourage quackery, as well as a provision for making the final MBBS exam an entrance test for PG education. All the teething troubles for NEET PG, they say, would be in vain if ultimately a university examination is all it would take to decide who can enter a PG programme.
AIADMK’s Vijila Sathyananth said the medical entrance examination was a burning issue in Tamil Nadu. “Bring a common syllabus for whole of India and then have a common entrance examination,” she said. NEET and NEXT should not be enforced in the country, she added.
In his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha, TMC’s Santanu Sen said the medical fraternity was against the “draconian” Bill. He said its provisions would lead to corporatisation of medical education and corruption, and was against federalism.
Supporting the Bill, JDU’s Ram Nath Thakur said medical colleges should be increased. His party colleague Manoj Kumar Jha said that concerns of protesting doctors should be looked into.
DMK’s Tiruchi Siva demanded that every state have representation in the Commission.
Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad strongly opposed the provision that aims to provide licence to 3.5 lakh unqualified non-medical persons to practise modern medicine. “Are we making 70 per cent of population guinea pigs?” he asked.
Earlier, the Congress and SP urged the government to withdraw this provision, saying it will “institutionalise quackery”.